African-American scholars from across the country to hold symposium on diversity in higher education at Vanderbilt University Oct. 11

October 1, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Brothers of the Academy (BOTA), a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of African-American professors in academe, will be joined by its counterpart, Sisters of the Academy (SOTA), to hold a first ever joint symposium at Vanderbilt University Oct. 11 to look at the challenges faced by African-American scholars.

Scheduled from 2:30- 5 p.m. at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema, the symposium, which is free and open to the public, will feature a series of panel discussions addressing the characteristics of the academy today, how to navigate the higher education system and retaining underrepresented faculty. Panelists from institutions across the country, including Vanderbilt, Fisk and Tennessee State universities, will participate in the discussions.

African-American men and women make up less than 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of all Ph.D.s awarded annually. Moreover, only 4.2 percent of all faculty in higher education are African-Americans.

The symposium is being held during BOTA’s fall planning session Oct. 10-13 at Vanderbilt. Members of SOTA will also participate in the planning session.

“Though much of the meetings at Vanderbilt will be geared toward organizational planning, in keeping with our mission we are holding the symposium to give BOTA members and members of the Nashville higher education community – from administrators to students – an opportunity to exchange ideas on improving diversity in the academy,” said Brian Williams, BOTA member and Vanderbilt assistant clinical professor in the Human and Organizational Department at Peabody College.

Founded in 1999, BOTA began as a small group of African-American professors with doctorate degrees who were in the early stages of their scholarly careers and had a desire to nurture collaborative scholarship with the goal of promotion and tenure among the members.

SOTA, with a similar goal of collaborative scholarship, was founded last year. Both organizations are based at Florida State University.

“While many universities may have a diverse staff, the decisions are made and the real power held within the academic side of an institution – where minority faculty are often underrepresented,” said Lee Jones, president of Brothers of the Academy and associate dean for academic affairs and instruction in the College of Education and associate professor in educational leadership at Florida State University.

Today, BOTA has 140 members from institutions across the country, including the University of Chicago, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and UCLA. Its initiatives seek to assist African-American graduate students succeed academically and professionally. The group also works to encourage African-American undergraduates to pursue graduate education.

Following African tradition, the group also has a Board of Elders that includes some of today’s most well-known African-American intellectuals such as Na’im Akbar, clinical professor of psychology at Florida State University, who is credited as a pioneer in an African-centered approach to modern psychology; Michael Eric Dyson, author and Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University; Nathan McCall, best selling author, former Washington Post reporter and Emory University journalism professor, and Cornel West, Princeton professor of African-American studies and professor of the philosophy of religion.

Brothers of the Academy: Up and Coming Black Scholars Earning Our Way in Higher Education, a book edited by Jones and published in 2000 features chapters from 26 of its members that explore the history and social position of African-American men in the academy and narratives on how each of the 26 featured progressed in their careers despite the odds.

More than 35 institutions are using the book as supplemental reading for their classes. A documentary of the same name has aired on public television in Florida, Iowa and New York.

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Contact: Princine Lewis, 615-322-NEWS,

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